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Pike River anniversary: 29 lives not forgotten

Radio New Zealand Radio New Zealand 19/11/2016
Mines Rescue staff prepare to enter Pike River mine on June 28, 2011 in Greymouth, New Zealand. © Getty Images Mines Rescue staff prepare to enter Pike River mine on June 28, 2011 in Greymouth, New Zealand.

Six years ago today, an explosion in the Pike River Mine killed 29 men.

The initial explosion hit the West Coast mine just before 4pm on November 18.

A second explosion five days later diminished any hope the men stuck inside would get out alive.

Pike River families spokesman Bernie Monk said families would meet at Blackball memorial site at 2pm before walking to the mine entrance to mark the anniversary.

They would gather at the mine portal for a private memorial service at 3.44pm, followed by a public commemoration in Blackball at 6pm, he said.

A 65-kilometre great walk through Paparoa National Park, which takes in the site of the former Pike River Mine, is expected to be complete by the end of 2018.

Plans to seal off the Pike River Mine were delayed in the lead-up to the sixth anniversary.

Family members of miners trapped underground in the Pike River coal mine react after learning of a second explosion in the mine at a briefing by mine authorities and police in Greymouth on New Zealand's west coast November 24, 2010. All 29 miners trapped © Spark Family members of miners trapped underground in the Pike River coal mine react after learning of a second explosion in the mine at a briefing by mine authorities and police in Greymouth on New Zealand's west coast November 24, 2010. All 29 miners trapped

Environment Minister Nick Smith said the delay stemmed from the emotion surrounding the anniversary.

The mine's owner, Solid Energy, is in the final stages of permanently sealing the mine, prompting some of the victims' families to stage the protest outside the mine.

Led by Sonya Rockhouse, who lost her son, and Anna Osborne, who lost her husband, they said it should not be sealed off until the bodies of the 29 men were retrieved.

"My son deserves better. The government don't own my son's remains," said Dean Dunbar, whose 17-year-old son, Joseph, was killed.

The protesters have taken a break to reassess their options.

"I really feel like I've let my son down, I hope he is up there somewhere, realising that Anna and I have fought for a long time, and we've fought hard, but when you're dealing with a government that just don't want to listen, that makes it very difficult," Ms Rockhouse said.

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